Sunday, December 30, 2012

Give me hope in the darkness.

"Are you kidding me?!"

That was the first thing out of my mouth today when I read about the shooting in San Antonio.

"What is this world coming to???"

That was the second thing I muttered right before I fell melodramatically onto my bed. My mind raced as it flipped through all of the messy, tragic and confusing things that have happened in this world in 2012. I felt heavy with grief, but worse, I felt the cold tendrils of despair begin to wind their way across my heart.

The world is full of evil; the world is full of pain and horror. There's nothing we can do to predict it or stop it. It's a reality that not only feeds despair, but also the mentality that people are bad and we must live closed and guarded if we are to survive. And maybe it's true. Maybe we do need to live cautiously, but to what extent?

My fear is that if you open the door to despair, hopelessness will soon follow. Those two go hand-in-hand it seems, and they can easily tie themselves to your feet, the cement blocks that they are, and bring you to the very bottom. That is not a good place to be. Darkness and fear thrive down there, and pretty soon those convincing four will become so loud that's all you hear. Then what? You become frozen, closed, bitter or harsh. Or maybe you become numb to it all, and lose yourself in the various forms of modern day distraction.

It's easy to go there, at least for this catastrophisizer (yeah, I just made up that word). It's much easier to sink than to shake off the despair and hopelessness, and choose hope instead. It's so hard to carry hope when all of this horrible stuff is happening. But we must.

I remember someone telling me that faith is believing the unbelievable. I think that having hope and faith feels like that - believing in the impossible. It feels counterintuitive sometimes. But I have to look at these negative news stories and believe that people are still good, that love still exists in this world.

Luckily, examples of this are not hard to find. Spend time at a park or playground, and you'll see kids laughing. Go to a restaurant and see families sharing food together (just don't go to Chuck-E Cheese's... not the best place to find peaceful joy). Go to a corner downtown around sundown in Austin, and you'll see people feeding the homeless. Watch the "Free Hugs" video from Sick Puppies and laugh at all the love. (

These are the reminders that make hope not so hard to have. It reminds me that despite the darkness of the world, there is much more joy and love to be found. No matter what we do in this life, we're all called to carry this joy around and be hope for those around us. Love cannot stop just because there is suffering. Because there is suffering, we must love more.

That's the beautiful thing about love - no amount of pain or suffering can squelch it. Love is immune to death; it is immune to darkness. Where love exists, so does hope.

As I go to sleep tonight, I mourn the suffering of the world, but I rejoice in the blessings all around me: my family, my friends, my sweet boyfriend, my job, my life. They give me love, and they give me hope.

"So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
And I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me that we'll be alright."
- Mumford & Sons 'Ghosts That We Knew'

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Therapized Therapist: Part 1

I've been debating about when or if I would blog about this. I usually blog about love or stupid things I see that I find amusing. Sometimes I blog about faith. This topic probably encompasses all of the above, plus some.

I've been putting it off because it's sensitive and sometimes difficult and blah blah blah. Excuses really. It's not something that is talked about often, but I really feel like it should be.

Unfortunately, trauma effects more than just a few of us. It's a sad reality, one that would be super depressing if it wasn't balanced by faith and hope. It's something we should know to watch for and learn how to guard against and heal ourselves and each other from. Even as a therapist, I missed it.

And I'm still stalling.

Sigh. Here's the truth: I was diagnosed last May with "Acute Stress Disorder", which is the baby version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or what I like to call (thanks to Pomeranian Catholic for this one), "Hunger Games Readiness". Basically, it's the label they give people who have been traumatized, but haven't been traumatized long enough to get the oh-so-coveted PTSD label. They save that for later (like now).

Long story short - I worked in a drug rehab facility with unstable, potentially dangerous people. Some really scary shit ensued. I was caught in the middle of it for about 6 months, until I cracked and changed jobs. That's when I met my Australian psychologist friend who pulled me from the trenches and has been healing my brain ever since. He first encountered me 4 days after my last violent encounter at work; 4 days after I finally broke down and told people what I had been going through. He was the first person to tell me, "Hey, what you went through is NOT NORMAL. You're not crazy. You just feel crazy. It'll get better." He then proceeded to teach me more cognitive behavioral tricks than I've ever cared to know.

It's fun stuff, really.

And still the battle wages. I sit here watching my thoughts whirl and spin in the oh-so-familiar dance of anxiety. This happens when I get tired, sooo like every night. My thoughts go running, like wild horses penned up all day suddenly bursting forth, kicking and chomping, so eager to be free from the confines of my ever-vigilant thought police.

But it's better than it was, thankfully. I actually feel like there is hope (yes, even Emo's have hope). I feel like I can actually beat this beast of trauma and panic. I praise God for even small moments where I think that. The hope is that 5 minutes of belief will stretch to 10 moments the next time, and 15 the next, and so on.

Hmm... that should do it for now I suppose. Next up will be all the fun PTSD symptoms. Or perhaps how God literally dropped help into my life. Both? We'll see.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Love as easy as breathing.

We've all seen them, those people who are so in love that depending on your emotional state will either elicit feelings of awe, jealousy, nonchalance or mild disgust. Regardless of your internal reaction, (or sometimes external, for those of you brave enough to say aloud "Aww" or "Get a room!"), you have to admit that these lovebirds have some things in common:

1. They gaze at each other as if they were the only two people on Earth.
2. They do things like buy each other trinkets, write them poetry, hold open the door, greet them with flowers, shower them with compliments, and generally act more hospitable and giving.
3. They probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of their significant other, often getting lost in daydreams or spending time planning the next date or sweet thing to do.
4. They are filled with good will, good intentions, positive energy, motivation and charity.
5. They try to make a good impression, often displaying the best version of themselves.
6. They smile with ease and they smile a lot (unless you're super emo, then you might just smirk more often).
7. They overlook the bad and are quicker to forgive each others' flaws.

Now maybe some couples embody these traits, others don't. We vary in love as much as anything else perhaps, but these are commonalities I have seen and felt. The love, the happiness, the energy, the brightness, the giving... It's beautiful, really.

And it makes me wonder, what if we all acted this way regardless if we were in love or not? What would the world look like?

Now I'm not saying we should all walk around wooing each other. That would get weird, complicated and all kinds of inappropriate real fast. But what if those traits that come so easily when we first fall in love - charity, generosity, excitement, motivation to serve, easy smiles, forgiveness and warmth - what if we practiced those traits every day to those around us? What if love wasn't something you fall into once, but something you choose to fall into every day?

I like the idea of this but already realize how difficult it would be. There are people on this earth that I love as easily as I breathe. Being charitable to them is second nature. But then there are those that I struggle to love. Maybe they pester me, maybe they ask too much, maybe they treat me poorly and maybe they drain me of precious energy I work hard to save. I haven't thought about loving them as much as I love my best friends or my sister, but maybe I should. Then maybe those loving traits would become second nature, would become like breathing.

To love as easily as I breathe... now that sounds like a worthy goal.

"Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be." - Anton Chekhov